31 December 2006

Not exactly a cause for mourning

Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti


Last month I talked about having mixed feelings about Saddam's death sentence, and now that it has happened I still feel the same. He was, undoubtedly, a monster. But I am not happy with our response to his monstrosity.

For a kangaroo court to hang Saddam is nothing to celebrate. As Majikthise says:

Giving Saddam Hussein an unfair trial is the equivalent of the cops planting evidence at the OJ crime scene. If you need to cheat to get a conviction against someone who committed as many crimes as Saddam, there's something very wrong with your justice system.
Spencer Ackerman sums up two causes for dissatisfaction even if you aren't troubled by the state having the power of life and death over the accused.
The more academic question is whether the process that has led to the end of Saddam can be considered a just one. And the answer is, tragically, no
Then is the question of whether the end of Saddam Hussein can lead to the birth of a better, more decent Iraq, and here the answer, as well, is no.
Matthew Yglasias also points to the context of the trial.
Saddam was charged with the wrong crime. When you think “Saddam Hussein and crimes against humanity” your thoughts naturally turn to Halabja/Anfal. Prosecuting that case, however, raised awkward questions about Don Rumsfeld's meet-and-greet with Saddam Hussein
The purpose of said visit, as people might recall were the American press not to have its head in the sand, was largely to reassure Saddam that the Reagan administration's public condemnation of Iraqi chemical weapons use against the Iranian military and Kurdish insurgents was not something Baghdad should take especially seriously. The State Department would condemn, but special envoy Rumsfeld was around to cut deals.
Joshua Michah Marshall ties the execution to the whole madness of the US effort in Iraq, and Jane Hamsher mourns, but not for Saddam.

Update: Aha. Ezra Klein says exactly what I couldn't find the words for.

In the end, Saddam's execution only underscores our plight. By the time his neck snapped and his feet swung, Saddam was but a diminished eccentric. His death, once supposed to be the final, glorious denouement of the war, is just a discomfiting reminder that we know only how to destroy, not rebuild. Saddam is dead. Zarqawi is dead. There is no one left to kill or capture who will end this nightmare. In the end, they were just more bodies, tossed atop the pyre in Iraq, where so many others have burned, and where the flames show no sign of extinguishing.

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